Stars: Laura Waddell and Brad Roller
|This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.|
And that's exactly what we have here: a multinational ensemble cast of character actors who have a blast with their roles and a script that bubbles with quirky British humour. Surprisingly, 30 year old writer/director Justin Calen Chenn is Taiwanese American, Californian born and bred and fluent in Mandarin, but you'd think he came from the other side of the pond, so natural is he with the British sense of humour. He cites Mike Leigh and Ken Loach as primary directorial influences, with Monty Python's Flying Circus, This is Spinal Tap and even Minority Report more specific to this script, but I have a feeling he could cite three other influences at every screening he attends and never come up dry. This script is something of a distillation of the history of British comedy: the surreality of the Pythons, the dry wit of the Ealing comedies, the satire of the news quizzes, the perspective shifts of Douglas Adams, and of course the frustrations of no end of BBC sitcoms.
In many ways, Jahn is the least watchable because he's almost the only actor in the entire film who plays it straight. Brad Roller does a capable job but being the only character without quirks in a picture that thrives on quirkiness does tend to shift him into the background. I'd like to see him in something with the opportunity to be more dynamic. Certainly, he's overshadowed by his assistant, Merle Eppis, because actor Laura Waddell is as natural a clown as I've ever seen. She steals a great deal of the show here, as Eppis has no restraint and Waddell has perfect comedic timing, along with a smile that doesn't know how to quit. It makes her entire face light up and it's contagious. Simply visualising that smile has the magic power to turn bad days into good ones and the memory of the blush that arrived when I told her that is a treasured bonus. If she's given the right opportunity in the right sitcom, she'll be a superstar in no time flat. Watch this space.
All this diversity gives me the impression that any random sampling of viewers would turn up a wide range of favourite characters. I'm pretty sure mine wouldn't stay constant for long. During the film itself, I'd probably have gone with the black clad shapeshifter Freda Gomo, who knocks herself out trying to shift in a performance that owes much to mime. Half an hour later I might have switched to the Ipsett sisters, a twin alien double act who continually finish each other's sentences, even when they're mad at each other. Tomorrow it might be the dominatrix vampire who can slap people with her mind. Or the surreal time traveller who channels Shakespearean dialogue in a truly outrageous outfit. Or the Icelandic troll with an accordion. Or... let's just say that I'm likely to play Folklore so much when it comes out on DVD to discover my favourite that I should buy two copies so I don't have to slow down when the first wears out.
I'm eager to follow many of these actors to other roles in other pictures, because I want to know how much of themselves they put into these characters and how much they conjured out of the material. I knew one already, though I couldn't place her at the time. Maria Olsen, a backwoods Texan unicorn here, was the bloody nurse I enjoyed so much in Shellter. She's less impressive here but utterly different and she serves as the point at which I began to wonder about the story. There's no budget for effects here, so we can't safely assume we're watching what we're told we're watching. You won't see the werewolf or shapechanger change or the time traveller travel in time. Until Eatha Haemm, I took it as given, but afterwards I began to wonder whether it was all really unfolding in a lunatic asylum with Jahn merely a doctor playing along with his patients' delusions. Certainly one character is not what he claims to be, but I wondered about others too.
All four of them are building prolific filmographies, as are most of the rest of the cast. It's obvious that these actors, mostly previously unknown to me, are going places with a few already well on the way. It'll be fascinating to see where they've all got to in five years time. I'm also intrigued to see what Chenn will be doing. He came late to film, a troubled young man finding a way to slay his many demons through the art of filmmaking. His debut feature, The Way of Snow, was made in 2007 with Chenn saving money by doing almost everything himself, not just serving as writer and director and sundry other crew roles but as lead actor too. Then again, it's sourced from his own life. He followed up with a number of science fiction shorts that grew into Embers of the Sky. Folklore makes something very different again, an overt comedy to follow drama and serious sf. What next? A musical? Well, Folklore does make the best use of bubbles since Robot Monster...